When I started my photography business in San Francisco, I knew I was ready to hit the road. There’s just something about the adventure and challenge of a travel session that feeds my artistic soul. I love being able to add unique images to my portfolio, and my willingness to travel outside the city has been great for growing my business in just a short time.

Let me give you the lay of the land: The San Francisco Bay Area is a geographically diverse home to more than seven million people. It spans nine counties over 60 miles, from Wine Country in the north to Silicon Valley in the south. This large metropolitan area presents me with a unique opportunity to attract clients over an extended area.

I knew from the start that I wanted to open myself up to taking on clients all over the Bay Area. This has been a great business move for me, but it has also been great for my own personal growth.

travel photo taken in Marin County: 14 miles from San Francisco
Marin County: 14 miles from San Francisco

4 Reasons I love travel sessions

1. Shooting in fresh locations keeps me inspired and engaged.

I’m thrilled when my clients have a location in mind that’s unusual or somewhere I haven’t been. My willingness to travel has allowed me to shoot in locations that are breathtaking, unusual and unique to my area. Usually, these travel photos end up being some of my favorites. But what’s more important to me is that shooting in new locations keeps me engaged and excited about photography. Sure, it’s comfortable shooting in the same location over and over because you learn every detail about the environment. But shooting in a new location is a challenge, and I really like new challenges.

Travel session photo of a pregnant woman under a tree in Cupertino California
Cupertino: 65 miles from San Francisco
a couple faces each other in San Francisco during a travel session
San Francisco
Travel photo of a couple hugging in woods
San Mateo: 20 miles from San Francisco
A couple walks through an orchard in Brentwood California
Brentwood: 67 miles from San Francisco

2. Driving provides me with valuable alone time.

Being in the car might not appeal to some people. But as a busy mom, having down time to listen to podcasts or chat with friends and family on the phone is something I crave. It’s an opportunity for me to daydream and decompress. These days, there’s so little time to just be. When I’m alone in my car, I can give myself the capacity to think without the interruptions of modern day and family life.

A pregnant woman stands in a field of pink flowers in San Jose, California
San Jose: 53 miles from San Francisco
A photography travel session in Walnut Creek, a mom hugs her three girls
Walnut Creek: 31 miles from San Francisco
Marin Headlands: 14 miles from San Francisco
Marin Headlands: 14 miles from San Francisco

3. My clients love being able to choose from a variety of locations.

Residents of the Bay Area consider the iconic city of San Francisco to be a visual marker of where they live and work. Because I’m willing to travel, I’m able to book clients who want their maternity sessions in San Francisco and their newborn sessions at their home in another city (some as far as sixty miles away). By marketing myself as a San Francisco photographer willing to travel, I grew my business working with expecting couples and families from all over the Bay Area.

pregnant woman stands in front of the Golden Gate bridge
San Francisco: 11 miles from Tarah's home
Travel photo of a couple holding a newborn and a dog in Point Richmond, California
Point Richmond: 27 miles from San Francisco

4. I’m able to create a diverse and ever-deepening portfolio.

Because I love to travel, I have images from all over the Bay Area. This has allowed me to attract clients from outside my home city of San Francisco. My diverse portfolio not only keeps my business growing, but also pushes me to continue finding new locations.

A pregnant woman walks a dog in font of San Francisco skyline
San Francisco

Travel sessions might not be for everyone, but it’s something that has set me apart and allowed me to grow my business and my creativity. I enjoy the challenge of arriving in a new place, of figuring out the lighting and environment, of meeting new and diverse clientele. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than making a new location discovery and adding a unique image to my portfolio. This keeps me growing as an artist as well as a business owner.

If you’ve been dreaming of new locations, now’s the time to do something about it. Plan a day trip, take on a new client or just get out of your usual area and look around. It’s up to you to decide if travel is right for your business. Just make sure you set your pricing to compensate for your time. And don’t be afraid to be different! Having your own photography business means having the freedom to run it the way you want.

A pregnant woman stands with her dog in Sausalito, California
Sausalito: 40 miles from San Francisco

Protect your time — ensure your travel sessions are priced right.

I don’t charge fees for travel sessions, but that’s because my overall pricing is set to compensate for all of my costs, including travel. My view is that travel is part of the cost of doing business, especially in a metropolitan area. If I do eight photo shoots a month and two are long distance, my average distance traveled ends up being a maximum of 25 miles per shoot. When you really crunch the numbers, my average travel distance is really not that far.

Calculate costs: If you’re curious to know the actual cost of gas, use a fuel calculator. Input the distance of the trip, your car’s fuel efficiency and the current gas price and the calculator will tell you your fuel costs. My fuel cost for traveling to my farthest location is under $10 one way.

Don’t forget about mileage when tax time rolls around!

All photos by Tarah Beaven